From the first few sentences of Albert Camus’ The Outsider, the protagonist, Meursault, is characterized as an amoral man. He is seemingly indifferent to the death of his own mother, despite the fact that societal principles would suggest he be deeply emotionally affected. His thoughts are instead centered upon the sun, which in return dictates his actions. In the novel, the sun is a representation of the societal weight which urges individuals to conform to norms. The presence of the sun indicates the stages of the development of Meursault’s belief in existentialism. As his understanding of existentialism grows and he realises his independence from society, references to the sun’s harsh effects gradually become absent. Furthermore, the sun is used as a metaphor for death to exhibit the inevitable nature of dying, another fundamental component of existentialism. Through such references to the sun, the novel is able to assist the reader in appreciating existentialism by exhibiting the gradual development of Meursault’s philosophy and by evoking emotions which sensitize the reader to feel the beauty of existentialism.
Within The Outsider, a parallel exists between the sun, which dictates Meursault’s actions, and societal constraints, which dictate mainstream society’s actions. The Arab’s death, caused by the sun’s pressure, is strikingly similar to Meursault’s death, caused by societal pressure which urged the jury to condemn him as a monster. This link is solidified by the diction near the Arab’s death: “But the whole beach was reverberating in the sun and pressing against me from behind.”1 The use of the word “pressing” is reminiscent of situations where one is pressured by society.
The first part of the novel depicts Meursault as a slave to the external force of the sun: “…it was my forehead that was hurting me the most and all the veins were throbbing at once beneath my skin.”2 The sun’s effect oppresses him as he suffers. As the sun represents societal pressure, this is symbolic of Meursault’s attachment to societal impositions. Meursault is pressed by the weight of society to commit certain acts, as he states shortly before the murder: “And because I couldn’t stand this burning feeling any longer, I moved forward.”3 This emphasizes the extent to which the sun dictates his actions. The strong imagery and heavy descriptions of the sun discomforts the reader, almost making him feel boxed and trapped: “My eyes were blinded by this veil of salty tears. All I could see were the cymbals of the sun clashing at my forehead…”4 This feeling of confinement evoked by the blindness and the tactile imagery helps the reader understand the unhappiness brought by the constraints which society places upon individuals.
Later, Meursault shows signs of disobedience against the sun: “And every time I felt the blast of its hot breath on my face, I set my teeth, closed my fists in my trouser pockets and tensed my whole body in defiance of the sun and of the...